Our world is currently facing immeasurable challenges as a result of COVID-19. Businesses are struggling with the changes in consumer spending and the airline industry has been particularly impacted. Travellers have cancelled planned trips and are restricting new travel to reduce the spread of the virus through social isolation. This has significantly reduced passengers, revenue and grounded many flights.
This unprecedented global event calls for unprecedented measures. Though the situation leaves things a bit up in the air, airlines are working hard to implement innovative measures and actions in response to reduced passengers, revenue declines and rapidly changing travel regulations. Simultaneously, airlines must prepare for the expected industry ramp-up, knowing that precautionary measures and regulations like in-airport and in-flight social distancing will have a major impact on daily operations in the coming months. The rapid spread of COVID-19 around the globe took many industries by surprise and airlines were no exception. There are no industry standards or IATA guidelines dictating how to react to such a worldwide irregular operations event. Additionally, each country has its own regulations in terms of total or partial lockdowns, travel bans and restrictions, social distancing standards, etc.
Adapting to this uncertainty, airlines are making strategic decisions on how to respond. Even with restrictions and reduced flight schedules, airlines have continued to provide the critical service of transporting medical supplies, critical frontline workers and researchers. They are closely monitoring the rapidly changing situation in countries around the world, constantly assessing if the measures taken need to be altered.
As the situation improves, and it will, digital retailing products that offer both flexibility and configurability will be needed; two qualities that have always been important pillars in the design and architecture of the Datalex product portfolio.
Datalex offers a flexible digital retailing solution based on a non-restrictive architecture – that architecture being highly configurable and allowing airlines to react to market events quickly and accurately, when and where there is a business need to do so.
We are totally committed to supporting our valued customers through these difficult times. Our wide range of flexible and fully configurable capabilities enables airlines to respond to COVID-19 in a way that suits each individual airline best. As the current situation continues to evolve and changes must be made to the measures taken by an airline, our products usually only require simple configuration changes that can be implemented across distribution channels in an instant.
Waive Change Fees
Even before travel restrictions and worldwide lockdowns were officially announced, a Datalex customer decided that passengers who had booked flights with a departure date in a certain time period should have the option to change flights at no extra cost and therefore change fees should be waived. Datalex’s IROPS (Irregular Operations) capabilities enabled the airline to create an IROPS bulletin, allowing their customers to access their reservation online and change flights without having to interact with a call centre agent. The Datalex IROPS bulletin contained and managed all of the rules to automatically waive change fees that would normally apply.
The flexibility of the IROPS capabilities enabled the airline to implement rules to waive change fees on the online channel within a few hours after the new waiver policy was implemented, resulting in a huge reduction in the number of calls to the call centre. Customer satisfaction was also greatly increased as customers did not have to pay the normal change fees and were able to make the changes themselves online, with no need to call the call centre with long waiting times.
In order to protect cash flow, many airlines are issuing vouchers to customers for the value of their purchased ticket rather than a refund when flights need to be cancelled. These vouchers are usually valid for 12 or 18 months and can be used as a form of payment when booking new flights.
The Datalex Credit Bank product supports the use of Disruption Vouchers.
Disruption Vouchers are typically issued by airlines in case of a service disruption, e.g. a cancelled flight because of weather conditions. COVID-19 is the most wide spread service disruption the airline industry has seen.
The Datalex Credit Bank (DCB) product comes with a user-friendly business tool that allows business users to create and issue disruption vouchers.
The integration of the DCB redemption service with the airline’s order fulfilment system allows the customer to use the Disruption Voucher as a settlement option when booking new flights.
Prepare for In-Flight Social Distancing
Along with other travel providers, most airlines are already preparing for the post-crisis ramp-up, with an aim to return to robust business operations as quickly as possible.
It is to be expected that for a certain period social distancing rules will still be in effect and in order to adhere and protect the health of passengers and crews, airlines need to take measures in terms of seat assignment logic and allow for advanced seat reservations that automatically maintain social distancing rules.
Datalex products feature a flexible and sophisticated Business Rules Engine which includes a comprehensive set of rules for seat map configuration. These intelligent seat map configuration rules enable our customers to prepare for in-flight social distancing as airlines go through the recovery period.
These rules allow for many configurable features, for example blocking middle seats when appropriate, but also dynamically lifting the need for social distancing (blocking middle seats or certain rows or seats) when a seat map is requested for a party that can be identified as a family or a couple travelling together.
Prepare for Fluctuating Fares, Promotions and Fare Adjustments
It is difficult to accurately predict what the effect of the COVID-19 will be on airline fares, especially during the initial airline recovery period. Some say fares will go down; others that they will rise in response to increased demand and curtailed supply.
Due to in-flight social distancing and the probable fear customers may have to start flying again, load factors may be low in the early stages of recovery.
There will probably be major industry market changes including airlines changing or abandoning service destinations and airlines going out of business.
Regardless, airlines will need to run campaigns and promotions to get people back on board again.
Some airlines are already offering promotional discounts for people who are willing to accept vouchers instead of a refund for their cancelled flights.
Although it is hard to predict what will happen exactly, it is safe to assume that this event will bring changes and challenges to air fare management.
Airlines will need to be prepared to react to the evolving market constantly and rapidly. In managing fares, being quick with time to market and reducing distribution costs will be key to success.
Datalex offers a flexible Promotions engine with an intuitive business tool enabling airline business users to configure promotions and price adjustments based on a wide range of configurable parameters. Configured promotions and price adjustments can be published on the airline’s production system instantly by the airline user with a simple mouse click, reducing the time to market to an absolute minimum.
Datalex is proud to have been able to support - and to continue to support - our customers with a flexible product suite that enables airlines to respond in real time to meet their evolving business needs and the needs of their customers. You need to have, and to be, a good partner in challenging times.
Fred van Toorn
Product Manager Datalex Dynamic at Datalex
Contact Datalex today to explore how we can support your airline and your customers.